Semi-regular web-link clearance – July 2010

Suggested reading from the Microsoft Directory Services team.
Lots of good entry level reading here to help you brush up your Active Directory skills.

Troubleshooting, Known Issues and General Resources
When you’re troubleshooting a problem with Systems Management Server or Configuration Manager 2007, chances are you’re not the first person to encounter your particular issue. With that in mind, the first thing you’ll want to do is a quick search of our Knowledge Base, our blog sites and our forums to see if anyone has already posted the resolution: …

Data collection for Configuration Manager 2007 and SMS 2003
Log files you should collect before you raise a Microsoft support call, for SMS 2003 and SCCM 2007.
”For System Center Configuration Manager 2007 (ConfigMgr 2007) and Systems Management Server 2003 (SMS 2003), the first thing you’ll probably want to do in preparation for your callback is gather up any relevant information and log files so that you’ll have them handy when you speak with a Support Engineer. The exact data we’ll want to review can vary significantly depending on the issue so for the sake of this document we’ll err on the side of gathering too much data rather than too little.”

Use A Ram Disk To Reduce Writes On Solid State Drives

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Detecting broken or not installed SMS/SCCM clients.

You take all your computer accounts in Active Directory, filter out the old records (I use a cut-off of 30 days), and then compare it to your SMS or SCCM database.
(I showed you how to export the LastLogin date from Active Directory here
Further notes on Last Login date here).

An aside:
I love Active Directory, as you can use it as an “Authoritative Source”.  If the computer is not in Active Directory then it won’t be able to use AD resources, such as the corporate intranet or email or network printing; if your sysadmin is particularly clever.

You’re going to have 3 cases where computers aren’t reporting into SMS/SCCM, but are in Active Directory.

1. SMS/SCCM client is not installed
This is the easy to detect.  You can see it in the Active Directory but it’s not in your SMS/SCCM database.  Simple fix, install the SMS/SCCM client.

2. SMS/SCCM client is installed but has never reported.
Investigate and resolve the issue.  If there are lots of clients not reporting, it might be a site boundary issue.

3. SMS/SCCM client is installed but has stopped reporting.
The client has become broken.  When I last had this problem, it was WMI based and I wrote a custom script to repair it.  With mixed results.

The way I tell if a client has stopped reporting?
I subtract the SMS last contact date from the Active Directory LastLogin date.  If the difference is greater than 14 days, it’s likely the SMS client has a problem.

You could fix these broken clients manually, but a better way would be to have something in your users logon script.  Which runs at user logon and just detects and fixes common SMS/SCCM problems.  Which someone has already done.  You can find it here:
SMS 2003 Client Health Startup Script v4.19


  • 30 days?  Well people go on holidays for 4 weeks, and their computer may be turned off…
  • Corey Hynes suggested at TechEd 2005 that you should automate repeative tasks with scripts.  He was right you know.
    Microsoft Systems Management Server 2003
    Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007

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Check the health of your SMS 2003 & 2007 servers

I run a PowerShell script which checks the health of my 20 SMS 2003 servers.

Sure, I could install Microsoft Operations Manager (Microsoft MOM).  But there is the cost for the physical server, and Microsoft licensing to be considered.

So, instead I make do with the PowerShell script.  It’s saved me from having several server problems becoming noticeable to the customers.  (the latest example is here)

It’s crude, but it checks each of the SMS servers for:

  1. the server is alive, aka “pingable”.
  2. it’s CPU utilisation is <= 20%, and that no individual processor is running at greater than 20%.
  3. that the assorted SMS directories (inbox, Offersum etc.) are being processed.
    If a directory has greater than x files, this may be an problem.
    Curiously enough, Microsoft suggests a 10,000 file threshold.  I set it at 200 files.
  4. enough disk space exists on the SMS package shares.

Future plans?

  1. Write each check out to a log, for availability reporting.
  2. Check for “older than x days” files in the SMS directories.
  3. Make it’s output pretty, most likely via WPF.

You can download the script, and the sample server list file here.

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Microsoft SMS 2003 goes extended support

SMS 2003 going extended support is not a real surprise.  It’s replacement, Microsoft SCCM 2007, has been out in the market place since November 2007.

It isn’t that big a problem for the IT Shop I work in.  Our SMS 2003 infrastructure is mature, and we’re running stable client operating systems.

And as I wrote in “Lonely little SMS 2003 PCK files”, SCCM is on the (distant) horizon, so I have hope.

When I say hope, I mean that Windows 7, which all our customers want, will force the replacement of SMS 2003.

Windows 7 is not compatible with SMS 2003.

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Semi-regular web-link clearance – January 2010


Today I learned a little bit about how to get to some of the data stored within special shell folders.  You can get a list of all of the easy-to-get-to special folders here.  I noticed one folder in particular that a bunch of systems administrators I know want to read, and that’s the Nearby Computers page.  Here’s a quick 23-line function that will go and get all of the computers from the Nearby Computers page, ping them, and return the Win32_PingStatus objects.

End-to-End WAN Optimization with BranchCache

Expanding a business into new regions of the world with branch offices is a great idea from a business perspective, but it often presents challenges to network architects and implementers. To connect each branch office to a central location requires some sort of physical or logical connection, with bandwidth that is typically orders of magnitude smaller than local area connections. Low bandwidth combined with the trend toward centralizing organization data often yields branch office links that are congested, resulting in poor performance for applications. Moreover, many types of wide area network (WAN) links are expensive and can incur substantial startup and monthly costs.

Understanding DFSR conflict algorithms (and doing something about conflicts)

I’m frequently asked to explain the DFSR conflict algorithm – i.e. what happens when files are created or modified on two servers before replication takes place. What we don’t document well is that there are actually three conflict algorithms and they all behave quite differently. I am breaking these out into scenarios for easier understanding.

The Configuration Manager Service Pack Install Guide

This document was created to help in troubleshooting Configuration Manager Service Pack 2 (SP2) install failures. This document is not entirely specific to Service Pack 2 and can apply to Service Pack 1 installs, upgrades from SMS 2003 to SCCM, and future service pack or Configuration Manager versions that rely on .mof file compilations, SQL SPNS, provider DLLs, etc.

PowerScripting Podcast with Ed Wilson

Some troubleshooting resouces:

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Lonely little SMS 2003 .PCK files

The call came in:

Noddy22 has less than 5% disk space left.

Our Microsoft SMS 2003 servers are getting a bit tired, and we really don’t want to replace them just now.  There is a SCCM 2007 upgrade project on the horizon.  Or so it’s claimed.

Not many people have seen a Yeti either.

So we make do.  Which means I see if we can remove any software packages from the server (whoopee! I’ve found 10).  Then I thought, what about those compressed package files SMS 2003 creates when it distributes the packages to the servers (including Noddy22)?  .PCK files.

Now you just can’t delete .PCK files, as it breaks package distributions.  I was so grateful that I googled and found Shaun Cassell’s Savings Space on SMS / SCCM servers by deleting PCK files – the pitfalls and fixes article.  Because I was just going to do that very thing.  Dodged a bullet right there.

But, we had more .PCK files on Noddy22 than software packages, what gives?

I suspect that the packages were loaded onto Noddy22 with the SMS 2003 Toolkit 2 utility, Package Loader.  Which created some orphan .PCKs.

My solution?  I compared the .PCK files (240 of them!) to the actual package directories (180!) on the Noddy22server.  And then deleted the 60 orphan .PCK files.

Noddy22 much healthier now.

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Semi-regular web-link clearance (2) – November 2009

File Server Capacity Tool (FSCT) 1.0

New builds of Microsoft Windows are produced almost every day for internal development and testing. In order to detect performance regressions as soon as possible, those builds have to be evaluated and compared to their predecessors as well as previous public releases. A range of performance tests are used for these comparisons, including one called “FSCT” (which stands for File Server Capacity Tool). FSCT was developed by the Windows Server Performance team as a tool capable of simulating multiple concurrent users accessing a file server using CIFS/SMB/SMB2.

Enable HAL detection on a Windows Server 2008 R2 VHD virtual image
… And I (wrongly) thought we were over the whole HAL detection problem.

SCCM: Forcing a Task Sequence to Rerun

There are well known methods to force an advertisement to rerun – including several add-on tools available for the SMS or SCCM console.  To date, however, there are not equivalent methods to force a task sequence to rerun.  Part of this may be because task sequences are typically thought of as focused on Operating System Deployment (OSD) and rerunning these types of distributions are not as common as rerunning advertisements.

Group Policy Settings References for Windows and Windows Server

These spreadsheets list the policy settings for computer and user configurations included in the Administrative template files delivered with the Windows operating systems specified. You can configure these policy settings when you edit Group Policy objects (GPOs).

The Case of the Mysterious Black Box (SAN analysis for beginners)

I haven’t had any performance analysis challenges lately, but there is a lot of confusion as to how to measure SAN performance. To many, a SAN is a proverbial “mysterious black box” that seems to perplex all who try to measure it’s performance with any measure of certainty. This blog entry covers how I measure the performance of SANs and tries to unlock the mysteries of the black box.

William Stanek: Windows 7: Inside Track, Part 6 “Automating Migrations with USMT 4.0”

William here, continuing with my inside track discussions on Windows 7. Last time, I provided step by step options for using Windows Easy Transfer. Now let’s kick it up a notch and look at automating migrations using User State Migration Tool (USMT) Version 4.0.

How do CMW files in Office 2000-2003 work? How to maintenance MSP files work in Office 2007-2010?

Here is a quick walk through showing the keys that are used to control the CMW and custom MSP files to determine what settings will take effect and if they had been run for the current user or not. … For the purpose of this walkthrough I have created this maintenance MSP. To keep it simple I am going to apply the following two changes in this custom .msp.

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Setting up your very own SCCM 2007 test box (version 2)

Microsoft SCCM 2007 install

Note: this is a work in progress.

This has been a bit of trial and error, but to setup a standalone Active Directory Forest/Domain and SCCM 2007 Primary Server, on the one box, I did the following.

Installed Windows Server 2008 Standard with SP2

Added the following roles

  • Active Directory Domain Services
    Run DCPromo
  • DNS Server
  • Web Server (IIS)
    with the following roles: Application Development (WebDAV), Security/Windows Application Management

Installed the following features

  • BITS Server Extensions
  • Group Policy Management
  • Remote Differential Compression

Extended the AD Schema (.\SMSSetuo\Bin\I386\EXTADSCH.exe)

Installed SQL Server 2008 Enterprise Edition RTM, with the Reporting Services role.

Updated it to SQL 2008 SP1 Enterprise

Installed SCCM 2007 R2
how can I configure SCCM 2007 SP1 in Windows Server 2008

Install WebDAV

Installed WSUS 3.0 SP1
– the WSUSSetup.log is useful to assist you when WSUS refuses to install.

Further reading:
how can I install SCCM 2007 sp1 in Windows Server 2008 – a step by step guide
Installing and Configuring WebDAV on IIS 7.0

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